Perhaps the most masterful thing C.S. Lewis does in his Narnia series is to create a longing in you for Aslan the lion. Aslan is the central figure in the books, yet, notice how sparse his appearances are. You turn each page hoping it to be the one in which he comes into the story, and yet, you know that he is on every page. Every story is his story.
And so it is with our Lord. Mistakingly we can think that theophanies were as thick as June-mosquitoes following heavy May-showers in Oklahoma. They were not. They were more rare than horny toads. The first chapters of Exodus give us a clearer picture. God gives the brave midwives families in chapter one, then He hears the cries of His people in chapter two, but these are things we only know because of the narrator. Israel was ignorant of these things as the events themselves unfolded. But, because of the subtle narration, because of the genealogy, because we’ve read the promises in Genesis, because we’ve recalled the covenant, we see that God has been on every page.
It was God who brought His people down to Egypt according to His word. There they were afflicted as He told Abraham. There God multiplied them and made them into a great nation as He promised Jacob. God’s covenant faithfulness hasn’t failed. Even so, longings have been stirred. Israel, by her bondage cried out for the manifest covenant love of her God. We, by the Spirit’s Lewis-surpassing craft, long for God to manifest Himself. We’ve seen glimpses, and they are glorious, but we hunger for more. So we come to chapter three. We turn the page. There He is! The Holy and Humble one, the great I AM come down to bring His people up. The transcendent God has come down in immanent covenant graciousness to redeem a people out of bondage to a land flowing with milk and honey. Our hearts leap, for this story isn’t limited to one book of the Bible. This is the story of the Bible. This is our story: the holy transcendent God come down in immanent covenant grace to save a people to Himself. May our expectation grow with every turn of a page.
Length: 161 pp
Author: Joe Rigney
At the conclusion of Prince Caspian, Peter and Susan share with their younger siblings that they won’t be returning to Narnia because they “were getting too old.” Lucy exclaims, “Oh Peter. What awful bad luck. Can you bear it?” “Well I think I can,” said Peter. “It’s all rather different from what I thought. You’ll understand when it comes to your last time.” For the Pevensies, being in Narnia made them better for their world, not the worse. Though I’ve enjoyed the film adaptations, I have to agree with Rigney, the filmmakers largely don’t get Narnia or Lewis. They need to go back and learn. Rigney, like the Pevensies, hasn’t missed the point. He has been well discipled by Narnia. He is the better for it in this world. You would be the better too for breathing deep of Narnian air. For those who have breathed, and love Narnia, Live Like a Narnian is a superb relishing of those breaths.
But it’s not enough to simply feel something in response to the objective reality of the world. You must also feel rightly and proportionately to the way the world is. …
Following Plato, Lewis believed that we ought to initiate the young into these right responses, even before they are able to rationally understand or explain what they are feeling. The goal of such inculcation of right responses is that, when a child raised in this way grows up and encounters Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, he will welcome them with open arms, because he has been prepared for, and indeed, resembles them already.
Which brings us, finally, to the function of the Narnian stories in Lewis’s vision of education. The Narnian stories display through imaginative fiction and fairy tale the way that the world really is. Here is courage and bravery in its shining glory. Here is honesty and truth-telling in its simplicity and profundity. Here is treachery in all its ugliness. Here is the face of Evil. Here also is the face of Good. A child (or adult) who lives in such stories will have developed the patterns of thought and affection that will be well-prepared to embrace the True, the Good, and the Beautiful (that is, to embrace Jesus Christ) when he finally encounters them (Him!). Like John the Baptist, Lewis and his cast of Narnians will have prepared the way.